Always check with your own physician before taking any over the counter or prescribed medication for a pelagic. You know we have to say that, but you should always do it anyway, just to be on the safe side!
A Warning About the Conditions
Pelagic trips take place on a moving boat cruising on an unpredictable sea. As a result, there is always some danger involved. Loss of balance by you or another participant, shifting objects, and a pitching boat are just some of the situations you must be aware of. You assume these risks when participating on one of these trips.
Pelagic trips are generally not appropriate for young children under 12 years of age. If you are unsteady or have a medical condition, you should consult with your physician and See Life Paulagics before signing up.
Equipment and Clothing
Of course, bring your binoculars. Due to the motion of the ocean, most people prefer 7x or 8x binoculars, though there are others that still swear by their 10x. If you have both, it doesn’t hurt to bring a spare pair. Do NOT bring scopes unless they are on a gunstock. They are worthless at sea.
Feel free to bring cameras and video cameras, but be warned that salt water is highly corrosive, so be careful of getting your equipment wet. Even if you don’t have a long lens, you might want to bring a small camera to capture that incredibly embarrassing photo of your friend asleep with his mouth wide open. After all, what good are friends if you can’t embarrass them?
Be sure to bring sunscreen, lip balm and we highly recommend having sunglasses along.
In most seasons, wear clothes in layers. Bring rain jackets and rain pants to not only protect against rain, but to also protect against spray and wind. Please do not bring ponchos as they do not work well in the inevitable breeze aboard a boat. Wear waterproof footwear, like Gore tex hiking boots, sneakers in summer, with a good grippy tread, (Paul prefers knee-high rubber boots). In winter, being cold and damp is miserable, and can be dangerous. In summer, wear lightweight clothing and a ball cap or sun protection hat to protect yourself from the heat and rays of the sun. Some people prefer sandals to rubber boots at this time of year. Your feet will probably get wet, but they usually dry out quickly.
Overnight Trip Preparation
What To Expect – Sleeping Conditions: Picture 40+ of your fellow birders camping out on a boat. The sleeping arrangements are simple. Bench, Floor, Table, Upper Deck, anywhere you can find a space. Honestly it is the most fun you could have on a boat, well not a Cruise ship type boat, but a fishing boat, well, outside of fishing if you love to fish, well…okay let’s just agree that it’s a lot of fun okay?
The one exception to this rule is our newest boat– The Voyager– that we charter for long overnights out of Point Pleasant Beach, NJ which can comfortably bunk about 44 people. When we say bunk, we mean the bunks are like actual bed-like bunks. The mattresses are about 4″ thick and very comfy. There are upper and lower bunks on the main deck and one level bunks below deck in the bunk room. We had great feedback on the comfort of the bunks on our maiden voyage on our August 17-18, 2019 trip.
(see the dropdown under the navigation bar for a printable packing list)
Here is a handy list of items you may wish to have when joining us on an overnight adventure (in addition to items listed above and below):
Sleeping bag, or warm throw. Even on summer trips it can get quite nippy at night on the water. Buy grippy shelf liner at the dollar store to roll out and help your bag stay secure to a bench or added slip prevention to the floor. It works great.
Pillow or something to serve as a pillow – using a daypack filled with your rain gear, and layers works great.
A neck pillow (airplane style) if you are low on the list for boarding. You may have to sleep on the floor or sleep sitting up.
Ear plugs – it can be very loud near the engines, and also people that don’t sleep sometimes TALK LOUDLY! (trying to talk over engine noise)
Sleeping mask – often the lights remain on in the cabin so if your like me, light sensitive, you will want a sleep mask.
Anti-bacterial wipes – just because I’m a germaphobe. 🙂 It also is nice to wipe your hands after touching the salty railings over and over again.
Pain reliever of your choice, just in case you get a tension headache from holding your binoculars looking at birds from dawn to dusk. It can happen to the best of us, especially as we grow older.
Short-half life sleeping pill – We’ve heard that ambien works well as a quick acting sleeping pill. You don’t want to be groggy when you awake, so make sure you take it very soon after boarding. Check with your physician on the half-life and any possible interactions with seasickness medications etc., also please let anyone you are with know if your taking a sleeping pill, since we would hate for you to sleepwalk overboard, so please be very careful with this. You should probably try it at home first to make sure it doesn’t cause any strange side effects.
Remember – if you are well rested, you will be less likely to get seasick. Fatigue is a known reason that people get seasick. Try to sleep well the entire week before the pelagic trip.
Food and Beverages
Some of our boats have galleys (kitchens), some don’t. We’ll let you know which ones do and don’t on our Boats & Directions Page. On some boats you must supply all of your own food and drinks. On a boat with a galley the menu is usually not the best for seasickness honestly, but there is likely to be something you can eat that will provide nourishment and help you from getting seasick. Usually the menu is hot dogs, hamburgers, fish, grilled cheese, breakfast egg sandwiches with bacon or ham, and snacks like nutri- grain or protein bars, pretzels, m&m’s and other candies. If you are at all worried about seasickness, please see our Handling Seasickness section. In general, bland foods (sandwiches with no peppers, onions, mayo, etc.) and dry snacks (crackers, pretzels, etc.) are recommended. We recommend water and soda for beverages, but suggest avoiding acidic fruit juices.
Beer and wine may be consumed in moderation, but hard liquor is not allowed by any of the boats that we use. You could be fined or worse, we could have to return to the dock and you would be held responsible for the entire cost of the trip including all charges See Life Paulagics, LLC incurs plus whatever penalties the Captain and crew impose. So please leave the vodka, rum, whiskey, scotch etc. at home!
Cabin space is limited and we like to reserve as much of it as possible for the participants. Please share coolers when possible, and leave drink coolers outside under the benches.
Finally, THERE ARE TO BE NO BANANAS ON BOARD! We have been told by informed sources that bananas are bad luck, and that they should not be brought aboard. (Note: We have received a ruling that dried banana chips are acceptable.)
On virtually all pelagics trips from our region, there are long periods with few, if any, birds. Try to arrive at the dock well rested, and bring along a good attitude. We ask that you please help us locate the good birds. Remember that there are a lot more participants than leaders. Even when you are not scanning with your binoculars, look out at the ocean. The more eyes we have actively looking, the less likely we are to miss something.
Seasickness is, unfortunately, a possible side effect for some people when traveling on the ocean. The following are some tips for helping you to avoid seasickness.
Triggers: The following act as seasickness triggers for some individuals:
* Being cold and damp
* Being too hot
* Being overly tired
* Other people’s cigarette smoke
* Stuffiness of the cabin
* Excessive movement of the boat (big news!)
Food & Drink: What you do and do not eat and drink can make all of the difference in the world. It is important that you do both, even if you don’t feel well. Eat and drink small amounts on a constant basis. The following is a list of generally “safe” items:
* Plain Crackers
* Rice Cakes
* Plain Sandwiches
* Bagels (easy on the butter or cream cheese)
* Peppermints (Mary swears they settle her stomach)
* Cola (some people swear by it, others swear at it)
Similarly, there are certain foods to avoid. First, if you don’t like something on land, don’t bring it to sea, and that includes the items above! Avoid fatty, greasy, and spicy foods. Avoid acidic drinks like orange juice.
* Sandwiches with Salami, Oil, Mayo, Onions, or Peppers, tomatoes
* Potato Chips, it depends on what kind (baked Lays are pretty bland)
* Corn Chips
* Pork Rinds (you should avoid them on land, too)
I once watched a well-known birder who used to be infamous for his ability to get seasick. We were out on a rough day, and I watched him eat rice cakes, crackers, plain white bread, etc. all day long. I use the term “eat” because the food went into his mouth and down to his digestive system, but at the rate he worked his way through each snack perhaps “erode” would be a more accurate term. He nibbled constantly, but he didn’t get sick. He now highly recommends “TravelCalm” if you can get it. It’s from New Zealand and Australia. It got him his ABA White-faced Storm Petrel in 2019 on our boat! His name is withheld here, but he sports his image on our front page.
Finally, be sure to eat a good breakfast before we leave. Pancakes, toast, and bagels all make good ballast. If we are leaving at 6-8 AM on a boat with a galley, you can be assured they will be cooking breakfast for a moderate charge in the galley. On overnight trips when we have a galley, breakfast, lunch and sometimes dinner can be purchased depending on our trip schedule. Bring cash for the food and tip the cook please.
Over the Counter Meds: There are a number of over the counter medications available for motion sickness. Different active ingredients seem to work better for different people. A number of people I know have had good luck with Bonine. It seems to work fairly well and does not make most people drowsy.
IMPORTANT NOTE: We have had doctors advise us that to be fully effective, you should start taking motion sickness drugs 24-36 hours in advance! They are much more effective when they have a chance to build up in your system.
Prescription Meds: The most well-known prescription motion sickness drug on pelagics is probably the scopolamine patch, known simply as “the patch” by birders. It is placed behind the ear and the drug is absorbed through the skin. If you decide to try it, be sure to thoroughly discuss it with your doctor. You may only need a 1/2 patch if you are small in stature. Ask your doctor about proper dosing so you don’t sleep through the whole trip.
I have traded emails with a person on the West Coast who swears by a combination of the the patch and an oral prescription motion sickness medication. Apparently his doctor said that it was safe, but speak to your own doctor before mixing any medications.
Wrist Bands: There are elastic wrist bands available that have a plastic ball mounted in them. The ball is placed over a specific pressure point on the wrist that is supposed to reduce nausea. While we can attest to the fact that the pressure point works, I do not know if the wrist bands are effective, but at least they look silly … er, I mean cool.
Behavior On Board: What you do and don’t do on the boat can mean the difference between a good day and a bad one. First, avoid the stuffy cabin as much as you can. Sit near the center of the boat since both the front and back ends move much more. Also, you are much more likely to smell diesel fumes if you are at the back. Look out at something fixed like the horizon. This has an added bonus of keeping you looking for birds. Study gulls and gannets, or socialize with somebody to keep your mind occupied. Avoid break-dancing. Stay hydrated! Water is a friend not a foe. Sipping water throughout the day will help your body regulate temperatures, and a host of other great feats. So please bring or buy water onboard (the gallied boats will all sell water).
Succumbin’ to Chummin’: So you’ve tried everything but you still get seasick. It happens sometimes. There are a few simple rules of etiquette when you have to make your offering to the sea gods. First, go to the back of the boat. The head (that’s “bathroom” for you landlubbers) is the WORST place to lose it. In a moving boat, you’re not going to hit your target. The place for your technicolor yawn is over the side and down wind. Getting sick in the cabin or the bathroom could get you fined. The crew has to clean it up, and will not be your BFFs if you do this. Also, it makes it miserable for everyone that has to follow you into the bathroom.
Afterwards, it is important that you sip water so that you do not dehydrate. Although you may not feel like it, it’s helpful to nibble dry snacks. If you bow to the stern again, you don’t want to have an empty stomach.